露易丝湖的周边有很多著名的步道，对于菜鸟而言，可以选择的有Lakeshore和Lake Agnes，前者沿着湖畔，直抵山脚下的冰川，全长7公里；后者折转上山，经过Tea House，抵达Little Beehive，全长4公里。俺犹豫了一下，选择了上山的路径。因为此前团友曾经计划在露易丝湖搞一个健行，俺想当然以为是沿湖的步道，因为平坦易行，适宜层次不同的团友共行。结果，俺犯了主观主义的错误，此是后话。
下图： 一路慢跑上山，半小时后抵达Mirror Lake--一根立柱般的石峰下面，一个圆圆的小湖。
下图： 10分钟后，登临Lake Agnes。湖畔的出水口的旁边，一幢原木茶屋邻崖而立。据说这就是世界上海拔最高的茶屋，高程是2100米！
下图： 镜子般平静的Lake Agnes。
下图： 远山近岭，俱有故事。远处的雪山，依次为Mt Aberdeen和Mt Lefroy，此处孕育着好几条大冰川；近处是Big Beehive，如果您好事，可以右击本图，view原图，放大之后，山顶上面居然修筑了一个观景亭！
下图： 路易丝湖及其邻近的谷地。湖口的建筑，是为The Fairmont Chateau酒店。这座商业建筑，是当年加拿大政府为振兴经济所为，是否对于环境造成了负面影响，一直争议不休。
下图： 经过一小时的攀爬，终于抵达2225米高的Little Beehive。路易丝湖谷地的美景，静悄悄地展现在面前，令人窒息。这张图是此次旅行中拍到的最满意的几张之一，俺只把上面天空部分裁掉了一部分，并未做任何其它的PS处理甚至没有压缩尺寸。因此，这应该就是洛矶山脉的原始之美。
下图： Moraine Lake湖口。
下图： 湛蓝湛蓝的Moraine Lake湖水。多么蓝的湖啊，跳进去，就会融化在湖水里。。。
告别Teahouse，健行小组一分为二。女士们在一位男性团友的护送下，打道回府。俺们一行三人继续向Big Beehive挺进。呵呵，要是再爬上一次Little Beehive，俺就大概发疯的：）
Today was our first "official" day for the Canadian Rocky Mountain trip.
Downtown Calgary was pretty cold in the early morning. Weird, even at the rush hour, I didn't see many people or any traffic there. Only later did we learn that today was a Canadian national holiday.
Even though we afforded one night at the grant Hyatt hotel in down town, the luxury breakfast there was way beyond us that we all decided to get a few bites at a downtown McDonalds'. It is always a hassle to collect a cohort of five families with so many kids but luckily, we were on Trans-Canada Highway-1 heading west in 1 hour after many stops, waits and endless coordination.
Weather couldn't be better, the sky was watery blue with a few big cotton like clouds hanging over. Both sides of the road were too scenic for our urbanized eyes. The land spread out up and down laden with ponds and small lakes, covered by grassland, with occasional small clusters of pine or aspen trees, leaves pitched gold by early morning sunshine. At least at one part, we saw this wide patch of bright yellow canola flowers stretching a mile long.
Still about 20km away, the blue-ish ridge of dagger like snow packed Rocky peaks were clearly visible. The shadow of clouds casted patches of lead colored darkness on them only making them more unreal.
Getting into Banff, we headed to the Banff Gondola first. The air on the top of the Sulphur Mountain was cold, crispy and clear, making the sunshine too bright to open the eyes. The freezing high wind however, was piercing like knife. I had to take out the thermal sheet from yesterday's SFM to help fence it off --- it proved to be quite helpful.
Nothing changed much at the site from our last visit 3 years ago. But I did have a new discovery this time. While it was a very spectacular panorama view from the top looking over Banff downtown, the remote Minnewanka Lake and all high risings around, the similarity of the colors --- the sky, mountain, forest, lake and even the Bow River flew below all are in some kinds of blue --- however made it less contrast to eyes and lens.
The Gondola trip itself was eventless. The only notable incident happened when we queued up for the ride downward. The Little Bear stumbled on uneven floor and had his full-size hot chocolate spilled. Pitying him the tears immediately pouring out and only the consoling from Kitten, with half of her cup calmed him down.
Down from the Gondola, we checked into the hotel with a nice pool and jacuzzi, a joyful surprise for the whole group.
Only evening saw us in some trouble when we mindlessly wander at Banff downtown, sAtangach growling, desperately looking for a restaurant that could accommodate such a big team with something decent for both kids and adults. We closely bet over another big group at Boston Pizza, but only after 30 minutes of fidgeting, saliva swallowing and curses did we see our delicious plates finally show up, at the size very much satisfied to our starvation at the time.
6:00am, laying back in the arm chair next to the lobby window, I shuddered in the early morning cold waiting for Atang to run into Banff's early morning. But one book on the fireplace counter caught my eyes, "Roaring Thunder, a novel of the Jet Age". It was my favorite , and soon I couldn't take my eyes off the serendipity the last I would expect in this old hotel .
Atang and I sneaked into the at about 6:30am. Through quiet downtown, we crossed the bridge over Bow River and turned to left. Following a dirt trail, in a bout 4-5km, we ran into an intersection with an emerald pond to our left and mesh land at right stretched all the way to the side of the Bow River. Now the sky is getting brighter and the eastward tip of the nearby mountain peaks were in orange. Running back, we engaged a long ramp up over Bow Falls, a scenic site watching over the roaring water dashing through steep valley below. The grand Banff Hotel at mid of hill forest overlooked the foaming water. With 100 year history to its name, the hotel is one of the best known landmark in Banff.
Today the team visited Minnevanka Lake, the largest lake at Banff and the only one allow power boat in whole Banff National Park.
Day was sunny as yesterday but with lot less wind, a fine day for boating.
Our family was the first jumping into a motor boat. Seconds later, we scooted out on the big lake. Holding the control handle and watching the boat head slicing through the placid lake surface, I dreamingly saw all the reminisce of vivid memory of 3 years ago coming back in front my eyes. The only difference, there was a new girl C on our boat now, sitting side by side with T.
The center of the lake was windy and wavy, so I decided to drive alone the shore to the south side, under the shadow of high but barren uprisings in pottery brownness. Nothing much to be found there besides the pine forest at the shore and the high pile of boulders and gravels and huge crescent valley from massive glaciers. The view is quite conspicuous looking so close from below.
After many zigzag, fast and slow, and stop and go, we finally forced the boat to the furthest point the regulation permit before turning around. Soon I learned how challenge it was putting the boat back. The boat faced not only a strong head wind, but also rows after rows of strong waves. It was pushed up and down when cutting through white waves, splashing water everywhere. H and kids were all screaming and complaining.
At last, the odyssey was safely over, and the boat was perfectly docked in to the port under my experienced maneuver.
Lunch was resolved at Little Deli Store at side of the boat house over hotdog, burger and ice creams.
On our way to Two Jack Lake, we saw group of wild goats near the road. Even in mid summer, the water in the lake was icy cold, but it couldn't cool down the zest from B, Atang and I. We all jumped into the crystal blue and accomplished our feat of swimming in this wild beauty.
In evening, we pulled out to Silver Dragon at Banff downtown for dinner. Neither taste nor flavor was worth noting here.
In evening we were at Upper Hot Spring, one of the oldest and the most famous hot springs in Banff area. In a big pool , I've never expected to see so many people. To be honest, the hot spring itself was nothing spectacular, for both its view, service and experience.
8/3/2011 Wednesday Weather Varied
Plunging into the Emerald Lake, my whole body, from head to toe, was suddenly surrounded by this freezing coldness, so cold that my skin was in a pain of burning. My arms and legs stroke desperately in water, trying to dispel the phobia of being frozen alive.
It was strangely quiet in the water. I could only hear the bumping of my heart and ladies' talking from shore afar, fainted by clear, yet couldn't make a word. There was no water splashing, nor sounds from boat rowing nearby. My eyesight in the water was full of this bright opaque green, the same color one looking through a jade at the Sun. In the glimpse of changing breath, I stole peeks of this huge flat and placid surface of lake and a scintillate rainbow hanging over the heavy clouded sky.
The view was strange and totally different from what on land or even on boat. With my eyes lowed to the waterline I could feel the tranquility and wide open of this big greenness that I was part of now.
I knew the snow packed pyramid like mountain was there, with vernal forests extended all the way to its waist. But somehow my full consciousness was like a little guy hiding behind myself. It saw with my eyes but through a narrow tunnel . Nothing else but the water surface and the fainted rainbow in the sky was registered in my memory.
In a while, the burning pain turned into numbness, I stopped to check the direction, then continue for some distance before my leg gave up. Atong and B also got themselves into the water.
Today, we visited Emerald Lake, en route Natural Bridge and Spiral tunnel. We canoed and swam in the lake.
In the evening, we checked into Lake Louise Inn. Dinner was served at hotel restaurant but some of us sneaked out for something better with black beer.
8/4/2011 Thursday Clear
Looking down from top the rock hill, Atang and I knew something was wrong at the parking lot below.
Number of people were crowded at side of grassland next to the lot. Soon from the walkie talkie, we learned from the team member below that one mother grizzly led two cubs feeding at the grassland now. Through Atang's binocular, the brown faces and blacks noses were shining under the Sun. They didn't seem to be bothered by the big crowd nearby, still easily stepped around and happily enjoyed something tasty from the grass. But soon they were bored and retreated back into the dark forest.
10:00am, we were on the top of the small hill at end of Moraine lake. It is definitely one of the most impressive lake in the whole trip. Under the morning sun light, the lake was in such surreal blue so delicate and fragile. Number of noble peaks quietly sit at its back, with white snows and thick glaciers stretched on the back, which made the lake even more impressive.
While others still squeezed for photo spots on the till, Little Bear pulled us down to the lake and rent a canoe with Kitten and Claire.
Canoeing at different lakes the feeling was different. But what essentially the same was that the view was always better on the lake. It was more open and, with no trees or high risings close by, easier to find a good viewpoint.
Back from Moraine Lake, we went directly to Louise Gondola, which was known for its buffet and overview of Lake Louise and high risings around!
Nothing more needs noted there except tons of pictures were taken. And no bears were spotted at this "Easiest Place to Spot Bear in Whole Rocky" (as from commercial).
Getting back to Lake Louise, few of us (Atang, B, Q, Y, H and I) decided to take a hike to Agnes Teahouse up over the lake.
The trail wasn't hard but view was rewarding. Elevating for 400m in about 3.4km, we passed two beautiful lakes, a lower Mirror Lake is small, and a upper Agnes Lake is big. A meager string following steep fall links them together.
The teahouse was something "out of place" hiding between Agnes Lake and back forest. A log cabin built neatly, the teahouse got enough space for ~40 people inside and big open deck for tables and chairs outside. The store was closed when we were there, but through mesh window, we could see a few young women inside doing clean up.
Infested by ubiquitous mosquitoes, we only took a brief stop before move on. Q, Atang and I decided to continue for 1.6mk to the top of the Beehive, a huge protruding rock over looking Lake Louise. Others returned back home.
The last leg was actually the best part of the whole trip. When we hiked around the Agnes Lake, the Sun already set below the mountain back. But pink dusk still bright up the west side of the sky. The trail was pretty strenuous , with > 160m elevation in last 1km. But the view was worth all of it. And interestingly, at the top of the Beehive, in the middle of the scattered low pines and big boulders, there was an exquisite gazebo at the edge.
It was a square gazebo made of log a, with benches at each side and ground inside paved. This might be the most bizzard thing I 'd ever encounter in the wild. Another "out of place". I even lost $10 bet to Atang for it.
When getting down, the constellation of stars came up from the East and a corner of new moon showed up over the glacier. Under the mighty celestial light appeared upon purple sky, the topics accompanied us on the road were Light Year, Big Bang and Birth of the Universe.